“What’s your favorite country?”
Yesterday was a normal day here in San Miguel de Allende, although more obviously normal than usual, in a good way. I am used to aspects of this culture related to patience and kindness and honesty. Cars stop for you to cross no matter how safely they could go first. People on the street make a point of quietly greeting you or smiling. It is more likely that a vendor will chase you down the street to give you the six pesos you left behind than to overcharge you.
But yesterday was an unusual bunch of goodness.
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, is one of my favorite places on earth. The city’s historic center is gorgeous and walk-able and friendly. On any day, you are likely to find parades and processions and music. But, partly because of its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city’s historic center follows an elaborate set of rules…. how you can decorate your building, the colors you can paint your building, the kinds of signs you can hang, and the kind of noise you can make, among other things. It’s ordered and traditional.
But a few blocks from the historic center in barrio Guadalupe, the rules don’t apply….
I recently read an article by American journalist, Chris Hedges, which proposed that “societies are held together by a web of social bonds that give individuals a sense of being part of a collective and engaged in a project larger than the self.” https://riseuptimes.org/2018/12/30/american-anomie-by-chris-hedges/
This simple idea reminded me of the many times friends and family have asked me to describe my “volunteer work” with the refugees in Greece or the Caravan in Mexico. I never have a good answer. I say the people I met were kind and grateful in spite of their physical and emotional challenges. I say they were running from persecution created by the neo-liberal world order and forever wars, that some of them played cards on a blanket under a tree.
My (Spanish-speaking, angelic) San Francisco friend, Diane and I are in Tijuana to help support the 7,000 Caravan members who are on the Mexican side of the border waiting for a chance to apply for asylum in the US. Since first meeting up with the Caravan five weeks ago near the Guatemalan border, we observe that some things have changed and some have not. The bad news first….
More caminantes arrived in Irapuato on Saturday morning, 1200 of them, mostly Hondurans. Many arrived in shorts, without jackets or blankets or socks. Sneezing and coughing, eyes glazed over. One man had bare feet. The temperatures at night have fallen to the low 40s.
It’s become more difficult to predict the path of the Caravan since it left Mexico City. News reports are unreliable, plans change and there are break-off groups. I went to Irapuato on Saturday after hearing various reports — The migrants were headed there. The migrants were not headed there. The migrants were headed there but only in small numbers.
My stomach churned and my head throbbed as the collectivo wound around the hairpin turns on the jungle road. I didn’t get any relief during the straight stretches, which usually included a series of jarring speed bumps. I tried to focus my thoughts on our destination — Oventik, a Caracol for the Zapatista autonomous region. Say what? Continue reading